Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.Matthew 23:27
The Bible cautions us to beware of two types of leadership in the churches; the false prophets and the hypocrite pharisees. These are the two classes of preachers that Jesus Himself personally spoke against, as found in Matthew 7:15-20 and Matthew 23:1-39.
To catch a false prophet is not too difficult. Usually, the offensive things that a false prophet do is obvious and the distorted nature of their practices could only be as invalid or fraudulent as they are, where such conduct is often distastefully done outside the ambit of any sound doctrine.
But to spot a modern hypocrite pharisee today is quite another feat altogether. These are the ones that are cunning, ambiguous and tricky in character. Catching them is like trying to find a pin in a haystack. Leaders in this class are, according to Jesus, people who tell others to observe godliness, but they themselves do not do likewise according to their deeds. They say, but do not do (Matthew 23:3). Because of their crafty, “Machiavellian” nature, the modern day pharisee is difficult to detect with the naked eye, and it takes a person with solid understanding of the Scripture to identify these weeds in the host garden.
Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing
Unlike the typical false prophets that generally command their own crowd followings while being disapproved by a wider section of believers from the same faith, the hypocrite pharisees are much more astute and shrewd, in hiding their false identity. They are the ones with the spirit of dualism and as such making detection of such people much more challenging. The Bible describes them as so convincing that they manage to deceive many, even among the elect (Matthew 24:24).
The hypocrite pharisees are not interested to do laughable things that put their reputation at risk, for example speaking heresy or doing silly things in plain sight like the common false prophets without first thinking. They are careful and meticulous with their words, and they pay attention to detail, doing only things that positions them highly in the sight of men. In Matthew 23:5-7 Jesus said, “But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.”
They deceive others with their pretense of prayers (Matthew 23:14) and the financial benefits they gain from preaching is paramount than everything else good that are taught from the Bible (Matthew 23:16-21). And in Matthew 23:23-34, the hypocrite pharisees are the ones who neglect the weightier matters of the law; that is justice, true mercy and real faith. Jesus said these they ought to have done, without leaving the others undone, and in failing to do so, they became blind guides, whom Jesus describe as those who strain out small flies but only to swallow a camel.
Christians for Peace & Harmony in Malaysia (CPHM)
One good example of a Christian institution in Malaysia that I could think of that consist of packs of wolves pretending to be sheep and full of hypocrites, is none other than the Christians for Peace & Harmony in Malaysia (CPHM).
CPHM is a non-governmental organization (NGO), established a few years back by a former teacher turned preacher, who destines the group to be the champion to motivate the body of Christ, to help bring healing and restoration to the nation by fostering peace and harmony. From the surface, all looks good and well, with no alarm bells going off. Until you examine closer, inspect their policies, mission statements and scrutinize in depth the works they carry out, especially those that are done wide in the open and in public for all to see.
CPHM’s Engagement With People In Politics
A contributor to MalaysiaKini once wrote; the chairman of the CPHM claimed that many Christians approached him and expressed their concerns about things happening in this country. But how many was “many”? Did the figures become too many that necessitated him to the extent of forming a new NGO? Here’s the catchphrase for this post – non-governmental organization (NGO). Allow me to explain why this phrase is so important to unearthing all the hidden filth and excrement that led these leaders to their current state of ultimate hypocrisy.
In Malaysia, political parties are often associated with NGOs to bolster support for their political objectives. These organizations are like their hand crutches. NGOs speak to the media on behalf of political parties when the latter is found to be not in the ideal standing to advocate a certain agenda directly themselves.
For example, the ruling UMNO political party knows that Malaysians in general, would generally support the idea of another round of withdrawing money from their pensions fund account (KWSP) prior to maturity, to enable the majority of Malaysians from a certain ethnic group, to have sufficient money to spend this coming Hari Raya festival. Instead of speaking up directly to persuade the government, UMNO politicians would use NGOs, and they fund their activities to create the narrative that the people needed and desire to have the withdrawal badly. The politicians do this with the help of NGOs associated with them, in order not to place themselves at odds or in direct confrontation with the government but yet able to achieve their agenda and gain public affirmation by winning through the broader game of public perception. You won’t be surprise to find out that members of these dubious NGOs might also members of their own political party as well.
In this context, we see that the role of the NGO is to speak to the media. If two or three ordinary individuals call up the news agencies to report that they wanted the fund withdrawals badly, the media would probably not have entertained them. But if an NGO were to initiate the call instead, the situation would have had a very different outcome. Also, it would be easier for any reporting media to put together a story from an apparent NGO claiming to speak on behalf of tens of thousands of people rather than just a few men with their own hats.
Hence, Christian leaders from organizations like CPHM, they too knew pretty well how this media game is played. Unless they come together to form entities similar to these NGOs that are mobilized or used in politics, the media or the government would not have bothered to listen to them as individuals. Thus, you won’t be surprise to find in their own website, the various articles and write-ups being sugar-coated and self glorifying their own Christian leaders, exhibiting themselves as having successfully met up with government leaders, political parties and/or even other NGOs relative to the perception scripts that these leaders wish to make out to the public.
So, when the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition fell from power in 2018, these Christians NGOs who prodded the former Prime Minister Najib Razak, suddenly gets thrown off from their seats. And in 2020, when the Pakatan Harapan coalition lost their Parliamentary majority and had to surrender the administration back into the hands of the old guards, these Christian NGOs get thrown off the second time again. Therefore, instead of using politics and media to achieve their shameful ambitions, these Christian leaders ended up being used like prostitutes, by unscrupulous politicians.
Like NGOs, CPHM does not represent the voice of Christians at large, but their deeds are confined to the thoughts and visions of only a few men, who knows how to manipulate public perception in order to gain the notoriety for themselves. They are not interested to engage with Christian groups or individuals in the faith, they only give heed to opportunities that could bring them the limelight, and the public attention.
CPHM’s Affirmation Of Ethos
In the closing paragraph of CPHM’s declaration of its disposition to the public, it states that:-
We affirm that ethnic diversity is the gift and plan of God in creation, and we strive to be a visible model of ethnic understanding and reconciliation as well as to be an active advocate for peace making, peace building and conflict resolution (Deuteronomy 32:8, Acts 17:6). To this end we adopt a lifestyle of reconciliation, which in practical terms is demonstrated by:-
i. Cultivating Christian sympathy in feeling and courtesy in speech in all engagements by being slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation without delay and taking the initiative to cross barriers to seek reconciliation; and
ii. Forgiving persecutors and those who offend, engaging in long-term healing of wounds after conflict while having the courage to challenge injustice on behalf of others, and always being a beacon and bearer of hope.
In short, CPHM’s goal is to strive to be a visible model of ethnic understanding by cultivating feelings, to educate Christians to be slow to take offense and to be always ready to forgive those who offend. But read again carefully.
THIS IS NOT A GROUP THAT SET GOOD EXAMPLES FOR CHRISTIANS TO EMULATE; TO TAKE AWAY THE PLANK FROM THEIR OWN EYES BEFORE THEY TELL OTHERS TO REMOVE THE SAWDUST FROM THEIRS (MATTHEW 7:3-5). TO THEM, ONLY THOSE OUTSIDE THE CHRISTIAN FAITH ARE CAPABLE OF PERSECUTING OTHERS OR BEHAVING OFFENSIVELY. THEY BELIEVE THEY ARE SO JUSTIFIED IN THEIR OWN POINT OF VIEW THAT CHRISTIANS ARE CONSTANTLY IN THE REVERED POSITION OR POSSESSING THE POWER TO FORGIVE OTHERS AND THEY THEMSELVES ARE NEVER IN NEED TO SEEK ANY FORGIVENESS FROM OTHERS.
CPHM is not in the business to promote biblical or sound doctrines or even plainly to honor God. But their aim is clearly seen to be only concern with their reputation and fortifying how the public perceives them to be. They are not dissimilar to politics and politicians, and their goal is only to win in the battle of public perception.
The Root Of Evil Is All In The Family
To find out why a tree is dying, you go down deep to the roots to discover where the rot begins. Likewise, to find out how the organization grow into its current state of being prideful and full of self-admiration, you only need to begin by inspecting from its grassroots origins.
The chairperson of CPHM comes from a small church based in Rawang, Selangor and he is also the former Secretary General of The National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF) Malaysia, another umbrella body of Christian hypocrites. And from his flock we can identify how the decay began. By observing the leadership and the people in the governing council of his church, you will find that this flock have for decades been led mostly by lukewarm leaders. In Revelation 3:15, Jesus describes lukewarm as those that are neither hot nor cold, meaning they are people without firm association with either good or evil. In short, they are tepid believers illustrated by a lack of force or enthusiasm.
Pastors in this church consist of a mix of leaders with various stature and character. Some of his deacons are in the habit of combining preaching at the pulpit with personal stories of how God bless them in life and instead of using the Scripture as the core catalyst to deliver sermons, they rely on themselves and their own tales as the means to encourage the flock. While we may find one or two among them who understood well the connotations of the truth, but in general, this church is more often mired in the dilemma of always looking for its identity in Christ, but never seems to be able to find it.
On the extreme end, they even have false preachers among them, people who teach false doctrines that Christians can attain salvation by professing alone. And repentance is taught only as something one does by confessing with the lips, rather than with actionable deeds that produces genuine faith. Another one of their leader, who resigned from his position as senior pastor recently, have also been exposed as a blatant and careless hypocrite, who promotes zero corruption at his workplace while preaching godliness on Sundays, but only to be found out later that he is merely another religious bigot who sweeps all accusations under the carpet, and never enforcing the policies or doing the things he claims on paper to be doing, like fighting lies, cheats or corruption.
But yet, this former senior pastor has the cheek to command others to comply to his bluff, and even goes beyond boundaries to demand that others sign documents to certify that they are clean in order for his organization to obtain their ISO 37001 certification.
The Seed Of Pride That Grew To A Tree
In his church, the chairman of CPHM has many trees cultivated from small seeds of pride. And after decades of nurturing and watering, they have all became fully grown with fruits of ego and self-love. And the result we witness, as they branch out to other areas of engaging with the Malaysian community, they bring with them the seeds of pride and the disillusionment that as Christians, they are incapable of doing wrong. To them, by calling themselves Christians, it automatically entitles them to inherit the absolute righteousness of God that cannot be questioned and irregardless of their conduct.
This in contrast, is the classic example of self-righteousness; i.e. not following God’s law but thinking that what they are doing is right or better than God’s righteousness. Would it be unreasonable therefore to call them pharisees? No, it is not.
The Twilight Years Of A Lukewarm Leader
About 3 months back, the chairman of CPHM himself gave a sermon in his own church. Unfortunately, instead of delivering God’s word, he only managed to expose his own frailty and weaknesses, resulting from decades of honing the sins of pride. He talked about his own determination to accomplish worldly feats, in what appears to be nothing more than mere last-minute rushing to write things off his bucket list, such as climbing mountains and scuba diving. And he blends his story telling with teachings to his flock, not to give up in life, to forget the past and the need to practice reverence in all they do.
Instead of genuine preaching and reminding others to remember where they have fallen (Revelation 2:5), the entirety of his sermon sounded more like a man’s testimony of how he is fearing for his life and not knowing where he is heading after his own death. Hence, his determination to achieve doing things he never gotten to do before, and hastily bull-dozing them through his own twilight years before the light shuts off permanently on him, are obvious indication and hallmarks of a man unsure of the status of his own salvation.
From his own testimony, we can see without an iota of doubt, that the ideas of covering up sin practiced by his own junior preachers, actually came from himself. And the root cause is none other than his own negligence and carelessness in neglecting the weightier matters of God’s law, justice and mercy and faith – the things that he ought to have done, without leaving the others undone (Matthew 23:23).
These are the modern pharisees found in our churches today in this generation. Outwardly they have the appearance of godly individuals, but internally, they hide in their closets away from the light, filling to its brim with cobwebs of hypocrisy, bigotry and the spirit of duplicity. It takes quiet a pair of keen eyes to spot them, for hypocrite pharisees are not as easy to detect as their reckless, false prophet counterparts.